Roberto Chiarvetto

I do actually not remember since when I am in contact with Roberto but our correspondence increased a lot when we started to work on our common project “Incident at Jebel Sherif” in the late days of 2006 (together with Brendan O’Carroll).
Roberto has published several articles in Italian magazines. The subjects were the Compagnia Autosahariana di Cufra, Caproni Ca.309 “Ghibli”and the Imam Ro1.
Roberto is currently working on a new book-project with Andreas Biermann and me.

Flying over Zerzura

The long awaited English version of the book In volo su Zerzura is now available!

Scene – the south-east corner of the Libyan Desert in the early 1930s, with its recently discovered spectacular massifs and vast unmapped areas, animated by European expeditions looking for the mythical city of Zerzura and Italian militaries seeking to establish sovereignty over this freshly acquired corner of their colony. Behind the scenes all the ploys and parries of the diplomatic services trying to protect their own interests with their muted moves and mutual espionage.

A tale intertwining many destinies. The militaries, caught up in a series of conflicts, from WW1 and the Libyan Pacification to the Occupation of Abyssinia and WW2, are shown in an almost idyllic moment of relative calm as they explore and map the massifs and entertain and try to stall their uninvited, intrusive English guests. The English, consummate colonists, move with class and circumspection as they attempt to outwit the Italians.
The narrative follows the events on the ground by quoting from authentic and very often previously unpublished sources, so creating a polyphony of voices, from the smooth tones of the diplomats, the plain speak of the military reports, the bubbling laughter of the young aristocrat, the lightness yet strength of his wife’s comments, the pathos of last letters. It also looks ahead and follows all these associated with the exceptional 1932-1934 expeditions, many of whom who meet untimely deaths – accidents, illness or war, and in one case massacre in Rome’s Ardeatine Caves.

The Italian survivors keep silent, and never talk about these tumultuous years. So this monograph also becomes a testimonial to their lives and their endeavours, as it traces in great detail the 1932-1934 operations, recounting the background of the Zerzura myth, the hardships of desert life, the meetings with the English, the expeditions, trucks, planes etc. It ends where life takes a more savage turn and the military are directed elsewhere.
The treasury of images – landscapes, portraits, snapshots, vehicles, memorabilia and maps – brings vividly back to life the period, events and the people.

The book contains 300+ pictures, maps and original drawings on 395 pages!

More information:
English – Flying over Zerzura
Italian – In volo su Zerzura

Ordering information

The book is published by the Italian Airforce. Here the link to the online catalogue:
Italian Airforce Books – Online Catalogue

The cost of the book is EUR 30.-. To order, please write an email asking for P&H costs and sending options to rivista.am@aeronautica.difesa.it

In volo su Zerzura
In Volo Su Zerzura
In Volo Su Zerzura

Roberto Chiarvetto, Alessandro Menardi Noguera, Michele Soffiantini: In Volo Su Zerzura

Softcover: 395 pages
Publisher: Difesa Servizi S.p.A. – Edizione Rivista Aeronautica
Language: Italian
ISBN 97 888881 80199
Product Dimensions:21 × 26 × 2,5 cm

1932. Zerzura Oasis “fever” hits the greatest European desert explorers: Britons Ralph Alger Bagnold, Patrick Andrew Clayton and Sir Robert Clayton-East-Clayton, as well as Hungarian László Ede Almásy. Painstakingly described in the highly esteemed Geographical Journal, magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, their expeditions search the sands of the Libyan Sahara in a quest for the mythical lost oasis of Zerzura, down as far South as the Gilf Kebir plateau which had been discovered only a few years before, in one of the “blank areas” on maps of North Africa. Their passion for unexplored lands, discovery of unknown places, finding of prehistoric traces and making of tracks to be travelled by car where not even camels are able to venture, marks the beginning of a Saharan exploration age that still lingers on. The purely topographical and scientific intent was unavoidably intertwined with strategic and military aims, all tied to the need to establish national boundaries, still to be defined with the new Italian colony of Libya. The exploits of those adventurers and their publications are well known to all desert scholars, especially in the English-speaking world that gave birth to most of them, and to the public at large through the “English Patient” novel and film that drew inspiration precisely from those events.
However, now faded into oblivion, a few Italian characters played a very important role in the quest. They were not explorers in the usual meaning of the word though, unlike their British counterparts, or like the well-known Italian Ardito Desio. They were Officers and soldiers with great experience in the Colony, mainly from the Air Force but also from the Army. These men, defying the dangers of travelling by air and land in areas where no man had gone before, with next-to-nil chances of being rescued in case of need, followed their orders to undertake secret missions for the colonial Administration, to keep an eye on the British explorers and to gain their own knowledge of the region. The discovery of a new oasis with rich water sources, as described by the old Zerzura legends, would have had strategic importance for the Italian outposts surrounded by the southern desert of Libya, so much so that the highest-ranking Officers in the area personally took part in the expeditions – the Commander of the Aviazione della Cirenaica and the Commander of the Kufra Military Zone.
In November 1932 an Italian expedition undertook a most secret aerial and ground reconnaissance of the northern area of the Gilf Kebir, just months after the first and only flight by Sir Robert Clayton-East-Clayton, making a detailed topographical and photographical survey that survives to this day. This expedition was the absolute first to reach the area overland from Kufra. This is the story of that secret mission, of the men that undertook it, of the correspondence between the Ministries and the colonial units that prepared it in the utmost detail to make it possible. This is the story of outstanding missions to set up the outposts at Uweinat and Sarra, and the flights over the Tibesti and Ennedi mountains that lead up to it, and of the second flight over the Gilf Kebir that took place in 1933 to spy on a British expedition. Two years of unequalled missions, undertaken by extraordinary men using the best tools of the time: the dependable Romeo Ro. 1 aircraft, new Fiat 611 6×4 lorries, Fiat 514 cars and O.M.I. cameras.
It is the story of what survives today, from the memories, photographs and mementoes kept by the families of the pilots and observers, through the archive papers tracked down by very careful research over many years, to the aircraft wreck that still lies in the Libyan Desert, after flying for the last of those secret missions.

More information and order here: In Volo Su Zerzura

Gli ultimi Ro.1
Granchi e scorpioni nel deserto
Roberto's Website
Roberto's Website

Finally. Roberto has managed to set up his own website…have a look.

www.robertochiarvetto.it